After weathering some long, rainy days in Georgia, a local softball club is on its way back to sunny Arizona.
After defeating the New Orleans VooDoo 8-1 and the Fresno Force 8-0 last Wednesday, the AZ Cats '94 14-and-under squad lost to the Virginia Legends 5-1 and Mustangs 94 of Chickamauga, Ga., 1-0 on Friday and Saturday, eliminating them from the Amateur Softball Association of America's national championship tournament.
Seven errors and five unearned runs stymied the AZ Cats in the Virginia Legends loss. The local team managed two hits.
In the Georgia contest, Mustangs 94 broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning on a bang-bang play at the plate. Kayla Bonstrom of Canyon Del Oro tripled to open the sixth inning for the locals, but could not score. She had two hits in the game.
Losses and multiple rain delays aside, head coach Phil Fileccia believes the improvement shown by his team over the course of the season is one big reason it was able to excel in national competition this summer.
"Each of our 14 athletes has accelerated to the highest level over the past four months," said Fileccia in an interview last week. "It's truly a blessing as a coach to watch great athletes compete."
While the loss at nationals might be disappointing for the Cats, they can point to many positives this season, finishing as Arizona's 14-and-under champions, co-champions of the Surf City Classic in Huntington Beach, Calif., and runners-up at the National Hall of Fame Tourney in Oklahoma City.
The Cats will move up to the 16-and-under division for the fall season.
The higher level of competition will be a challenge for the Cats, but Fileccia believes the lessons his team learned over the summer will propel them to even more success in the future.
"Softball, as in life, is making the necessary adjustments to overcome adversity, and persevere until all is complete," said Fileccia. "These young women refuse to stop and strive to be better athletes each day.
"I have never seen this type of commitment at this level," he added. "The motivation of our team comes from the relentless drive from each of these amazing athletes."